Pub group Punch ‘on track’ despite softer second quarter trading

Punch said like-for-like net income across its core estate of 2,946 pubs in the 12 weeks to March 3 was down 2.9% on the same period a year earlier, compared with a fall of 2.1% over the first half of its current year, reflecting softer trading since Christmas.

However, it said the decline in net income continued to be driven by pubs under temporary management following failure, and most of these would receive investment before being re-let.

Its non-core pubs, those earmarked for sale, saw a like-for-like fall of 10.2% during the second quarter, also steeper than a fall of 9.7% for the first half as a whole.

But Punch said that average net income per pub across its full estate of 4,790 properties increased by 0.8% over the half-year, benefiting from the disposal of some non-core pubs which had generated proceeds of �62million, slightly ahead of book value.

It added that it remained on track to dispose of between 400 and 500 non-core pubs during the full year, with a total of 214 sold during the first half.

Punch chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Profitability in the first 28 weeks of the financial year has been broadly in line with management expectations.

“While we remain cautious on the near-term consumer environment, we have strong plans in place and expect to benefit from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the UEFA European football championship and the Olympic Games in the second half of the year.

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“In the current difficult climate we have worked hard to contain costs and as a result we remain on track to meet our full year profit expectations.”

Punch Taverns has a strong presence in East Anglia, including a number of pubs which were previously part of the tied estate of Ipswich brewer Tolly Cobbold.

Spirit, the managed pubs business demerged from Punch last August, is due to deliver its latest trading update next Thursday.